Lake Ouachita is currently at 577.2' and now holding steady pending this rain we're getting, a little under “normal” pool of 578. Water temperature is 44-45 degrees, down from 47 last week, due to cold nights. The water was clearing up from being filled to 582 last month, the ten-foot draw-down muddying current routes a bit. 25-35 feet down is where the good bass are, last week 22-25 feet, so they are sinking deeper. By the 17th they might be at 40’.
Practically everyone has stuck to their strengths, most always fishing shallow along the shoreline. Most didn’t weigh in a single fish this week. No excuse for that.
I have a string of humps that top out between 10-40 feet, all mid lake well away from any shoreline. Those around the mouth of main creek arms are best. No weedlines are close by, and avoid creeks with a lot of watershed above them where current is still running. In other words, look at creeks coming off a steep mountain that’s already drained off. Fishing weedlines will not win a tournament now, and probably wouldn’t produce a keeper UNLESS you find weedlines next to a steep drop-off to 40-60’ of water within about 50’ distance. A deep diver crankbait pulled into the deep is OK, a slow mover with lots of side to side wobble or top to bottom roll. You’ll need a 20 foot diver on light line to reach the bass. Consider putting lead on the line ahead of the crankbait to get it deeper and keep it there, or C-Rig a diving crankbait. Pay close attention to any brush piles in those areas.
Schools are small, average maybe 10 bass, and bottom hugging. Really big schools are usually stripers, right now around 20 feet down over 60-70’ of main tributary water. That tells me a lot about where the shad are. Most I’ve found are close to rocky areas, and all are well away from any channel with river current. When the dam is generating you want the slackest deep water possible.
Bass are very lethargic, not fighting on the way to the boat. They feel more like walleyes. Stripers are fighting very hard, another clue towards avoiding wasting precious tournament time catching those. Just relax the line and let them spit it out if focusing on largemouths or spots. They are scattered all over the lake from upper river to the dam, so any area is as good as another if it has the elements mentioned above.
The best approach I know is my favorite for winter, a Dare Devil spoon. It flutters slowly and is easy to keep at a particular height above bottom when casting. Vertical spooning has been best, a technique VERY few folks will use. I move the boat, not the jig, when the fish move, keeping them on the sonar screen. I want a tight line and constant contact to feel those mushy bites. A good sonar with proper setting will keep the spoon on screen with the fish. I find a school, park right over it, and drop the spoon under the transducer, stop it right on the bass, then try to hit the bass with it. Raise the spoon occasionally and let it flutter back to the bass, then bang their heads. One will get mad and try to eat it. Another lure to break the boredom is a ¾ oz flat jig (brand unknown) meant for swimming, with a big pork trailer, dark brown, or black/blue. I’m using #34A Uncle Josh frogs on that whenever the bass are actually on bottom. Barely hop and drag it once in range of located bass. I'm using Yo-Zuri Hybrid line, 12# on clean bottoms, 30# close to hard cover and rocks. We have sharp rocks here. That line is fluorocarbon coated. I use a stiff 6' rod with fast action, a soft tipped rod bouncing too much when using a spoon or heavy jig. Shorter is better when fishing right next to the trolling motor transducer.